For the past three days, I’ve been following reports on individuals and small businesses being harassed by unauthorized digital lending platforms. These reports also refer to excessive rates of interest and additional hidden charges being demanded from borrowers; adoption of unacceptable and high-handed recovery methods; and misuse of agreements to access data on the mobile phones of the borrowers.
For instance, yesterday, I received the following message from an unknown number: “ATTENTION! A chronic debtor (name and phone number withheld), 46 years is indebted to our company, inform him to pay back immediately, else his pictures will be posted on all social media and newspapers as a wanted crimiminal, and his BVN will be blacklisted for criminal act any moment from now, if he still refuse to pay.” Just because of seven thousand naira? Haba!
The negative comments I’ve read and received so far from victims, relatives, friends and well-wishers so far are pointed to the fact that some of these lending online portals are scammers.
I strongly agree with the submissions I’ve received so far because of my knowledge as an Accounting graduate. The reason for my stance is this: If a bank, cooperative society or an online lending portal want to borrow you money, they will carry out a credit check. How many of these online portals offering loans do a proper credit check?
When you borrow money from these online loan platforms, initially, it may seem a good deal, but always bear in mind that reputable lenders don’t take the risk of giving you a loan without ensuring that you can repay them. A loan you get without credit checks may seem too good to be true because it usually is. Scammers tend to charge ridiculously high penalties and late fees if you fall behind on your payments, which they count on.
In view of the aforesaid, I want to urge Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to mandate that digital lending platforms to disclose the name of their partner banks upfront to all lenders. Also, as a public awareness measure, CBN and National Orientation Agency (NOA) should enlighten the unsuspecting public on how to verify the authenticity of online digital lending platforms and how to register any complaints through the official portal.
I also appeal to Google to carry out a proper investigation about the activities of these online lending portals; where they are found guilty, they should remove the lending apps from the Play Store.
Let’s call a spade by its name, if you borrow a loan from an online app, you too should fulfill your repayment obligation. And if you are struggling to keep up with your loan repayments, or anticipate you will miss a payment in the near future, the most important thing to do is contact appropriate authority of the lending platforms straight away explaining your situation. Then, you can both try and find a solution that suits the partners involve instead of putting yourself in embarrassing situation that you may never recover from or take a longer time to get out from.
While we expect CBN and Google to do the needful; in the meantime, I urge you in the name of anything you owe dear to you, AVOID borrowing money from online portals and websites as most of them are susceptible to hacking and security breaches no matter how secure they claim to be. The damage they will do to your brand and contacts, I tell you, you may never recover from it.
Above all, don’t give yourself financial and self-imposed pressure because you want to live a better life by borrowing money from an incredible online loan portals. It is better to be safe than sorry.